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CHRISTMAS ISLAND - Can a cynical journalist save Christmas?
This reporter was honored with a place on the International Journalistic Roster allowing personal interviews with Santa Claus during the holiday season.
This year’s story turned into quite a challenge as Claus could not initially be located. Instead of his usual North Pole spots, he selected to spend the month of December on vacation at the Christmas Island Casino and Resort.
I first learned of Claus’ location from a North Pole informant who wished to retain anonymity. He advised me to find him at a local cookie and nog bar, with a broomstick in his hand.
The informant filled me in briefly, as he “had to hurry on his way” before he “melted away.” He said Claus took a leave of absence from his ceremonial duties based on concerns of the world ending prior to his annual flight.
North Pole officials and local press refused to comment on the situation. The informant said they were wishing that Claus would return in time for the holiday.
“They’ve been trying to follow me here and there, all around the square. Well, catch me if you can,” he muttered under his icy breath.
On Associated Press payroll, I flew from Blue Lick International Airport, via Prancer, to the North Pole, and then to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Indonesia.
A long search resulted in the locker room of the resort’s golf course clubhouse, where Claus received a massage following a double round.
“Birdies?” he asked aloud, “Well sir, I hit four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle dove and a partridge in a pair tree. I think his name was Keith.”
Claus chose not to speak to press at that time, unusual for his persona but invited me to dinner at the resort.
He arrived on time, accompanied by a reindeer with a red nose.
“No, he hasn’t been drinking at the tiki bar, Ho Ho Ho,” was Santa’s response to my first question. “That’s what happens when you travel in the South Pacific without sunscreen.”
I ordered the same meal as Claus, a Thai beef salad and Korean Bulgogi (a cost of $48 to the AP). The resort allowed Claus to bring his own beverage, a bottle labeled, “Christmas Cheer.”
Noting that ‘tis the season, I inquired as to why Claus was not hard at work in the North Pole preparing for his annual gift delivery.
“Ho Ho Ho, no reason this season,” he exclaimed. “The world is ending, you know.” However, confronted by conspiracy rumors and counter-arguments, Claus agreed it was possible the world would not end on Dec. 21.
“Ho Ho Ho, it doesn’t matter what I believe,” he said. “It’s what everyone else believes, and this year people chose to believe in the Mayans instead of Christmas.”
Over creme brulee dessert, which he consumed so lively and quick, Claus informed that after 1,802 years of nighttime gift delivery, he felt enough was enough.
“It started as a fluke, ya know,” he said. “I had a buddy back then, good man, but times were tough. He had three daughters that were lovely, but trouble finding them husbands because he did not have a substantial dowry. You know, the financial side that the bride brings to the marriage. Times were different then.
“So I snuck by to leave some money, anonymously, just to do my part to help,” he said, shaking like a bowl full of jelly and laughing in spite of himself. “I couldn’t sneak in the window, too fat back then, Ho Ho Ho. So I tried the chimney.
“Anyway, I couldn’t get all the way through, so I reached down to place the money purses on the mantle. Well, I couldn’t quite reach it, so I places the purses in some stockings hanging to dry. From there... well, you know.
“And the next day, when my friend saw me covered from head to toe in ashes and soot... well, word just kinda spread.”
His mouth was drawn up like a bow as he inspected the dinner check. He checked it twice, before selecting one of many credit cards. With names from Santa Claus, Father Christmas, and Kris Kringle, he went with Noel Baba.
Claus told of moving from his homeland in Turkey to the North Pole many years ago, mostly avoiding religious conflict, partly for land value.
“It was peaceful, it was a place for my elves to work and play without distraction,” he said. “It’s still wonderful, except I have to keep on the extra pounds for warmth and wear that red suit all the time.”
Point blank, I asked what Claus felt about all those expecting presents on Christmas morning.
“Every year, for as long as anyone can remember, Christmas has come,” he replied. “But has everyone received a present?
“Christmas is not about me, it’s about giving, but it’s not about the giver so much as it is about the gift, who receives it, how it makes them feel. Maybe a year without packages and toys and whatnot will remind everybody of that.”
Claus wrapped up the interview abruptly, as he had scheduled a snorkeling lesson. I returned to the North Pole.
Hustle and bustle was led by Mrs. Claus, who was planning to make the annual sleigh trip this year in case of emergency.
Sleigh team official Jangleman Ixnaybobber said some elves were not totally satisfied with Mrs. Claus’ insistence on “socks and underwear for every child.”
“The kids have been good, for goodness sake,” said Ixnaybobber. “Let ‘em play a little, ya know?”
Mrs. Claus was also dealing with Local Elves Union 1225, who specialize in toy production.
“If (Claus) wants to jeopardize his way of life, that’s fine and dandy, but we, as the little people, will not be compromised,” said 1225 official spokeself Jolly Clanger.
Reindeer were disgruntled over the potential trip, with Blitzen most boisterous.
“It puts all the weight on our antlers,” he said. “(Mrs. Claus) doesn’t know any of the shortcuts, she hits the brakes awfully hard, she pulls back too tight on the reigns, and those horrible cutesy nicknames for us, it’s all just too much.”
Mrs. Claus, in a brief North Pole press conference, countered that maybe she should’ve made the visits all along.
“Never leave Poppa to do a woman’s work,” she said. “If he’s too busy playing golf and snorkeling, well then we’ll just have to let the brains of the outfit carry out this mission. Sometimes Poppa can be a stubborn old coot.”
From there, she said not a word, but went straight to her work.
With that, it appears there will be some version of Christmas gift giving this season.
However, if you don’t get everything you wanted, or if you receive extra socks and underwear, you are advised not to question it, just to be thankful for it.
This reporter also advises readers to remember the real reason for the season.
Proper focus will lead to a happier season for all.
For more information as this story develops, stay tuned to our website, or visit the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Santa tracking website, www.noradsanta.org.